The Missourian solicited written answers to a set of nine questions from the six candidates for the Columbia City Council.
Bill Weitkemper, Jim Meyer and Andrea Waner are seeking a three-year term representing the Second Ward, while incumbent Betsy Peters and challengers Randy Minchew and Philip Merriman are competing to represent the Sixth Ward. The election is April 6.
Here are the candidates’ answers to the following question:
What are your thoughts on the direction the city should take in collecting residential trash and recyclables?
Weitkemper: There are still some problems with the present system: inferior bags, trash bags and recyclables being left on the curb at residences; residential trash being put in apartment complex dumpsters and commercial dumpsters; trash scattered along streets; and many (student) residents using the wrong bags. The city indicated the reason they stopped picking up curbside recycling last winter was because of a lack of staffing. The Street Division doesn’t stop plowing snow because of a lack of staffing. The city reassigns qualified drivers from other departments to assist with snow removal operations when there is a lack of staffing. The lack of staffing was a “red herring” created by management. Picking up bag after bag, each weighing 50 pounds, is going to be much harder than picking up the previous half-full bags. Roll carts should be put back on the ballot for a vote of the people.
Meyer: In keeping with my desire for liberty and limited government, I would have the city allow people to opt out of its residential trash collection service so that, if they desired, they could contract with a private company for that service. There are several local firms that collect trash in unincorporated Boone County; there is no reason they couldn’t collect trash inside the city as well. These firms currently charge about what the city of Columbia does without limits on the number of trash bags per week and without requiring the purchase of special bags. Other firms might also enter the market offering different options if there were a larger market for them to pursue. This way people can choose the trash service that best suits their needs. People that desire a roll cart option could likely contract for that. People that prefer bag collection could contract for that.
Waner: I support the goals of reducing waste in our community, having an equitable utility system and protecting the safety of city employees. We haven’t truly begun the “pay as you throw” program to be able to evaluate it as a successful solution. Every program is rough at the launch. This solution incentivizes less waste while reducing risk to our solid waste employees. We should give it a chance to work while exploring other and better options. It is crucial that we are able to revisit any and all solutions to evaluate whether they work and whether they are furthering the goals for the city. Whatever system we choose, we need to retain our city-owned utilities, as with privatization, the emphasis stops being on what the voters of Columbia want and starts being more about profit for private business.
Peters: We need to go to roll carts if the citizens are willing, but right now there is a voter-initiated, voter-approved ban on roll carts in Columbia. I believe we need to use city refuse collectors, not outsource. This allows us to pick up the trash in each area, keeping the roll carts at the curb only once/week. These are good-paying, union jobs for our citizens. Numerous private trash companies will mean roll carts out multiple days of the week and will increase wear and tear on the roads. For residents who may be elderly or differently-abled, the city can arrange to have the refuse collector roll the cart from your home to the trash truck and return it to your house.
Minchew: The city should not be in the trash bag business, and they are just asking for more grief from the public by trying this system. The other problem is the unintended consequence of this heavy-handed system.Trash will be thrown in areas where we don’t want trash. From the feedback I am hearing, the latest effort forcing people to use city logo bags has not been received well. It appears the city is trying to strong-arm people to act in a way that suits the city but does not take into account the issues that are important to the voters. I think City Council missed an opportunity to listen to the citizens of Columbia and also misjudged how important trash collection is to all of us.
Merriman: We should be working towards privatization of this service. Any plan the city implements will meet the needs of some citizens and fail to meet the needs of others. A “one-size-fits-all” approach is not viable. By privatizing, each resident will be able to select the service that works best for them and will able to procure that service at a reduced cost.
Missourian reporters Dylan Schwartz, Anna Ortega, Paul Schloesser, Charlie Drape, Alexandria Wells and Kelsy Armstrong helped gather candidate responses to the Missourian questionnaire.